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Sinai Peninsula

I am floating, suspended in a sea of blue. Having achieved neutral buoyancy, I hang effortlessly above the floor of the ocean watching small fish dart in and out of coral heads. My body mimics the large sea fans that lazily sway in the ocean current. Above me, I can see my air bubbles as they rise and break the surface of the water to escape into the atmosphere. I look at my dive computer; I have plenty of time to explore before I need to follow them.

I swim forward and enter the side of a sea cave, followed closely by my diving partners. It's just large enough to hold three or four divers at a time. A school of silver sweepers hangs motionless in the filtered light streaming down from an overhead opening. As I kick upward, they part like a curtain then fold back again leaving no trace of my passing. I follow the gleaming beam of sunlight to exit from the living reef.

I watch an active community of small fish interacts with the garden eels and sea stars as they move about the soft corals. Again, I check my dive computer and rise a little closer to the surface following standard decompression guidelines. The divemaster that leads my dive is keeping a very close eye on us, checking frequently and getting one on one communication from every dive member that they are "OK". It's time to surface. A dark shadow falls over me. I turn and look at a large shape silhouetted against the sunlight from above. Momentarily I feel a rush of fear as it moves toward me. Gliding gracefully, so near I could reach out my hand and touch it, is an eagle ray with a wingspan over four feet wide. After my initial shock abates, the beauty of the sight invades my mind as I watch it disappear into the depths.

Aboard the boat, I remove and stow my gear. The end of a diving day always brings parting sorrow but, tonight I shall ride into a desert sunset, visit nomadic Bedouins and then return to a rooftop restaurant to enjoy savory delicacies. While lounging peacefully in the cool night breeze, I will relive this day of "desert and diving" with my companions.

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